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City of Natchez nearing lease agreement for old train depot

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials are “wrapping up” the paperwork to lease the former train depot and former Cock of the Walk restaurant on Broadway Street to make way for a new restaurant and event space, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson announced during Tuesday’s meeting.

Gibson told the board of Aldermen the proposed lease agreement with filmmakers Tate Taylor and John Norris of Church Hill Variety LCC could be “ready for a vote by the next meeting,” which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Taylor is the director and producer of films such as “The Help,” “Get on Up,” “Ma,” and “Breaking News in Yuba County,” — which was filmed in Natchez in 2019 and is scheduled to be released in theaters on Feb. 12.

City of Natchez Attorney Bryan Callaway and the attorney of Church Hill Variety LLC were working on the final details in the agreement, which the Board of Aldermen reviewed in executive session before closing Tuesday’s meeting.

Once the lease is approved by the board and signed, Church Hill Variety will be allowed 180 days to make renovations.

The original RFP for the depot suggests the lease be approximately $36,000 per year with up to $300,000 credited back to the lessee in exchange for any capital improvements made to the facility.

In previous meetings, Taylor and Norris described their plans for the depot — the addition of public restrooms and a refreshment vendor that will be accessible from outside the building and high-quality street food served from the restaurant inside.

Norris said Churchill Variety also envisions other enhancements to the bluff area around the restaurant down the road, such as an amphitheater and a children’s play area with a splash pad.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen decided a year ago to award the RFP to Church Hill Variety. However, Norris said the progression of their plans had been slowed down by COVID-19.

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